You might have seen this:
I have always had a certain amount of respect for Bill Nye in the past, even when I disagree with him. I just appreciate his calm, rational approach. This video disturbs that greatly, because it demonstrates a truly shocking level of irrationality and ignorance on the topic he’s arguing about. Let’s look at some of the claims he makes.
The first sentence in the video states that “many, many, many, many more eggs are fertilized than become humans,” but that after conception, the embryo must attach to the uterine wall (presumably, before it becomes human–though he leaves the statement unfinished).
Right off the bat, we run in to trouble. First off, Nye is equivocating on the word “human,” or else the statement is total nonsense. If you’re going to stand on science, then from a biological, scientific point of view, the zygote (newly fertilized egg) is a human at the moment of conception. Every egg that is fertilized is, at that moment, human. It’s not anything else. Conception is the textbook beginning of the human life cycle. Scientifically speaking, that’s the moment a new human comes into being. That’s just biology, baby. Or, baby biology, as the case may be.
So again, if Nye is resting his argument on science, he must not actually mean that a human embryo is not human. Rather, he’s playing a little loose with the technical meaning of the word–presumably when he says “human” here, he means something closer to “person” or implies “human-with-rights” or something along those lines. This is the only meaning I can find in this sentence without it being self-contradictory. But doing that means he’s not talking about science. Defining “personhood” or assigning rights to one or another class of humans isn’t a scientific question, it’s an ethical, philosophical one. So immediately, the idea that this is a scientific argument is missing its foundation. Let’s move on.
“If you’re going to say when an egg is fertilized it therefore has the same rights as an individual, then whom are you going to sue? Whom are you going to imprison? Every woman who’s had a fertilized egg pass through her? Every guy whose sperm has fertilized an egg and then it didn’t become a human?”
So, it gets worse. This is total nonsense no matter how you look at it. When a woman miscarries, the embryo dies of what we would call natural causes. So, while we have laws against killing adult humans (presumably for some kind of bible-thumping reason), we don’t sue or imprison people every time a person dies of natural causes. This statement implies to me that Nye has, possibly, never given even a moment’s serious thought to the issue he’s arguing.
Further, different individuals have different “rights” at times. Affirming that a baby is a human doesn’t mean treating it like an adult any more than affirming my two-year-old’s humanity means we have to let him vote.
In a statement directly to those in the pro-life movement, Nye then says you “literally don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ironically, it’s followed by this:
“You have a lot of men of European descent passing these extraordinary laws based on ignorance… Your interpretation of a book written five thousand years ago, fifty centuries ago, makes you think that when a man and a woman have sexual intercourse, they always have a baby, that’s wrong, and so to pass laws based on that belief is inconsistent with nature.”
This… I don’t even know where to begin with this. Nobody… ever… anywhere… has ever made anything resembling such a claim. For the record, nothing in the Bible implies anything like this. But also, for the record, I’ve been in a lot… a lot… of abortion debates, with a lot of different people, and I pretty much never, ever bring up the Bible. I knew to expect to disagree with Nye’s conclusions, but I never would have expected such a wild, irresponsible, and truly ignorant statement from him. I don’t even know where such a nonsensical claim comes from. If this kind of statement is why Bill Nye is pro-choice, his opinion is truly based in utter ignorance.
“You wouldn’t know how big a human egg was if it weren’t for microscopes, if it weren’t for scientists, for medical researchers looking diligently….”
Jumping from this to “therefore abortion is okay” is the definition of non sequitur….
“I know people are now critical of the expression ‘fact-based,’ but what’s wrong with that?”
Finally, we have some pretentious looking down at anyone who would disagree. I’ve never actually heard anyone criticize facts either, for that matter, but this is the point of the video, of course- not to persuade someone who holds pro-life beliefs, but to tell those who are pro-choice that there’s no reason to ever bother seriously thinking about the question, because science. You can continue to look down on the pro-life movement because they are dumb because science and science-y words and bow ties so don’t think about it. This is what the video boils down to.
This video is four minutes and thirty-six seconds of awful logic and ludicrously nonsensical assertions coated in a pretense of science and delivered by a man whom you can trust because he put the word “Science” in his name. If you watched the video and thought Nye made great points, you are not paying attention.
I knew there must have been a reason I was always a Beakman kid.
Trent Horn over at Strange Notions has a much more thorough response.